HANOI, Vietnam — On day two of his first-ever visit to this country, President Bush began a series of one-on-one meetings with leaders from the region who have been actively involved, along with the United States, in working to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.
President Bush's goal is to get North Korea's neighbors, which include South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, to take a very hard line with Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions.
To that end, United Nations sanctions have been approved, but the United States also wants support for the Proliferation Security Initiative. That voluntary international program calls for ships suspected of transporting weapons of mass destruction to be stopped and searched.
However, South Korea will not be stopping North Korean ships on the seas. The two Korean nations live under a 50-year-old armistice, but are technically still at war. If the South intercepts a North Korean ship, it could be seen as an act of war and could prompt a military response.
In a news briefing in Hanoi shortly after that meeting, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow downplayed the differences.
"The President understands political constraints; we've just had an election," Snow said. "He also understands the commitment of the government of South Korea, and it's important to work with them to make it possible to move forward."
The other part of Mr. Bush's day in Hanoi dealt with the legacy of the Vietnam War, after which some 1,800 American service members remain unaccounted for. The president toured the U.S. military's joint POW/MIA accounting command office, charged with tracking leads dealing with missing U.S. personnel. Officials say the command identifies the remains of as many as six MIAs each month.
Sunday, Bush heads to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. It was the site of the last exodus of American personnel by helicopter from the embassy rooftop at the end of the war.
But the White House is emphasizing this week not that history, but rather how much has changed, even as more and more people make the comparison between the Vietnam War and and the one raging today in Iraq.